Pitch or Silence the Phones?
My colleague Bob Geller’s post, Hypocrisy Rampant in When not to Pitch a Story, focused on outreach to reporters during sensitive news periods, like the one earlier this week with the announcement of Bin Laden’s death. It’s not always easy to determine the appropriateness of a topic during a crisis. I think there are two layers here: one, your gut; and two, your relationships with reporters.
- You need to ask yourself one question to start: how does this news effect my client and the media in this particular industry? While Bin Laden’s death was international in scope, it didn’t really have an impact on my high tech client in the telecom space. I’m sure that sports writers are still on the job, and metro has plenty of space to fill.
- If you are doing your PR job correctly, you should have strong relationships with reporters who you can contact. Pick up the phone and talk to them. Ask them if this news has an impact on their beat. See if there has been a shift to different stories or a new editorial focus. They may be asking the same questions.
I’m speaking from experience here as I was working at a PR agency on September 11. Shortly after the first plane hit, my director sent an email to her whole team asking everyone to stop all media outreach for the day – this was later extended to the entire week. I think her directive was a good one, as this tragic event stopped everyone in their tracks, no matter the industry. There were other PR pros who didn’t take this approach and paid a price by jeopardizing their relationships with the reporters they knew, and practically eliminating any shot with reporters they didn’t know.
For most in our industry, common sense should be the rule here. Keep the lines of communications open and you’ll know when to pitch and when to stay silent.